There is never any scenario where driving under the influence is okay. It’s an irresponsible act that needlessly endangers you and the people around you. Notably, there is an even more irresponsible version of that action known as an aggravated DUI.
DUI and aggravated DUI charges are not the same. They come into play under different circumstances. The penalties associated with them also differ.
A DUI charge can get you into a lot of legal trouble. An aggravated DUI conviction will be even more troublesome from that perspective.
It’s important to know the differences between DUI and aggravated DUI charges. You can learn more about them by continuing with this article.
Defining an Aggravated DUI Charge
A person can be found guilty of driving under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration level exceeds a certain threshold. In Arizona, a person with a blood alcohol concentration level over 0.08 is guilty of driving under the influence. For drivers of commercial vehicles, that lowers the threshold to 0.04.
Those thresholds still come into play in aggravated DUI charges. It’s not the amount of alcohol in a person’s body that turns a DUI charge into an aggravated DUI charge. Rather, other factors that emphasize the recklessness of the guilty party are the ones that usually elevate the severity of a particular DUI offense.
Officials can cite multiple factors in aggravated DUI cases. Let’s talk about them in greater detail below.
Being Charged with Driving Under the Influence Multiple Times
First, officials can charge a person with aggravated DUI if they repeatedly commit the offense within a certain amount of time. To be more specific, getting three DUI convictions within eighty-four months would result in an aggravated DUI charge.
Driving Under the Influence with a Canceled, Revoked, or Suspended License
The state of Arizona does not cancel, revoke, or suspend driver’s licenses for no reason. That is only carried out as a form of punishment if the driver was irresponsible or reckless on the road.
When the state takes away a person’s driving privileges, the concerned party must abide by that. Failure to acknowledge that can prove costly. Those who drive under the influence with a canceled, revoked, or suspended driver’s license can receive aggravated DUI.
Refusing a Blood Alcohol Test while Their Vehicle Is Equipped with an Ignition Interlock Device
Once a person is found guilty of committing a DUI violation in Arizona, their vehicle has a certified ignition interlock device installed. The job of the ignition interlock device is to prevent drivers from operating their vehicle while they’re intoxicated.
To use a vehicle equipped with the ignition interlock device, the driver must first blow into it. After that, the device will examine the driver’s blood alcohol concentration. If the driver’s blood alcohol concentration level exceeds a certain threshold, they cannot use their vehicle.
Notably, a driver may need to blow into the ignition interlock device multiple times while operating their vehicle. That feature is baked into the device’s design so drivers cannot ingest alcohol as soon as they start the car.
The ignition interlock device can limit the driver’s control because it connects directly to the vehicle’s power system, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
The presence of the ignition interlock device on your vehicle can also open you up to an aggravated DUI charge. Any DUI violation you commit while an ignition interlock device is in your vehicle will turn into an aggravated DUI charge right away. On top of that, refusing to take a blood-alcohol test when you have that device is grounds for an aggravated DUI charge as well.
Driving Under the Influence while a Person Under Fifteen Years Old Is in the Vehicle
Being careful on the road is expected of all drivers in all situations. Even so, more emphasis is on that whenever you have someone under the age of fifteen inside your vehicle. People under that age are more susceptible to injuries, so you need to be more responsible while driving them around.
If someone is driving under the influence while a person under the age of fifteen is in their vehicle, they will receive an aggravated DUI charge.
Driving the Wrong Way on the Highway while Under the Influence
Lastly, a DUI charge can also be elevated to an aggravated DUI if the driver was spotted going the wrong way on a highway. It’s easy to understand why driving the wrong way is considered an aggravating factor for a DUI charge.
Operating a vehicle in that manner can be incredibly dangerous. The danger level only increases if the driver was also intoxicated.
Is an Aggravated DUI Charge Considered a Felony?
Driving under the influence is considered a class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona. But what about an aggravated DUI? Is it viewed in the same way?
Arizona law considers aggravated DUI offenses to be more serious than the typical DUI violations. That’s why officials see all aggravated DUI offenses as felonies. Crucially though, they are not all on the same level in terms of severity.
Individuals driving under the influence while a person under the age of fifteen is in their vehicle can receive a class 6 felony. If your aggravated DUI charge stems from the other four causes, then you’re potentially facing a class 4 felony.
Distinguishing between those charges is important. The penalties a person may receive will change depending on whether they are guilty of a class 6 or 4 felony.
The Penalties for a Class 6 Felony Aggravated DUI Charge
Since aggravated DUI offenses are felonies, you will be looking at potential prison time instead of a jail sentence.
The minimum prison sentence for a class 6 felony is six months. The presumptive sentence is set at twelve months, while the maximum is at eighteen months.
In addition to the prison sentence, those found guilty of class 6 felony aggravated DUI will also render community service and undergo alcohol education, screening, and treatment. They will also revoke the guilty party’s driver’s license for one year after the verdict.
Fines are usually also assessed in DUI cases, and the same goes here.
The Penalties for a Class 4 Felony Aggravated DUI Charge
Class 4 felonies are more severe than their class 6 counterparts. That means the prison sentence will be longer.
The shortest prison sentence handed down to someone guilty of committing a class 4 felony is eighteen months. The presumptive sentence is then set at thirty months, while the maximum is thirty-six months in prison.
People who are guilty of committing class 4 felony aggravated DUI will also receive fines, perform community service, and attend alcohol treatment programs. They will also revoke their driver’s license for at least one year.
The Aggravating Circumstances for Felony Violations
Although there are maximum prison sentences for aggravated felony DUI charges, someone can receive a longer penalty. That can happen if certain aggravating circumstances exist in a particular case.
There all kinds of aggravating factors that can be cited in felony cases.
Someone getting seriously injured because of the guilty party’s actions is an aggravating factor. The same goes for any property damage that stems from the crime.
A person’s intent may also be an aggravating factor in a particular case. If they prove during the trial that the defendant was acting with malice during the crime, their charges may elevate.
A guilty party may also incur more penalties if their actions affected a disabled individual or someone over sixty-five.
The prison sentence gets significantly longer if they note aggravating circumstances in a felony DUI charge.
For class 6 felonies, the maximum prison sentence goes up to twenty-four months. For class 4 felonies, the maximum prison sentence if aggravating circumstances exist goes all the way up to forty-five months.
Another thing to note here is at least two aggravating factors must exist in a specific case for the maximum sentence to increase. Without at least two aggravating factors present, they will follow the original sentencing guidelines.
The Mitigating Circumstances for Felony Violations
Whereas aggravating factors raise the potential maximum sentence for a felony DUI violation, mitigating circumstances do the exact opposite. They can further reduce the minimum prison sentence for a defendant.
They consider the defendant’s state of mind when figuring out what punishment they should receive. Those who are under a substantial amount of duress at the time are likely to receive more leniency.
The court will also look at how the defendant behaved after they were apprehended. Defendants who were more obedient have a better chance of receiving a mitigated sentence.
Whether a defendant could fully appreciate that they were committing a crime also matters. In DUI cases, though, this mitigating factor is unlikely to play a role.
A defendant deemed to have a minor role in the crime may also receive a mitigated sentence. However, that mitigating circumstance is also unlikely to apply in a DUI case.
The age of the defendant could also make a difference.
In a class 6 felony case, the minimum prison sentence drops from six to four months due to mitigating factors. Meanwhile, the minimum sentence for a class 4 felony case goes from eighteen to twelve months.
Also, note that at least two mitigating factors must be present to impact on the case.
How Parole, Commuted Sentences, and Suspended Sentences Affect Aggravated DUI Cases
After receiving an aggravated DUI, you may be hoping that your stint in prison will not be as long as your original sentence. You may be hoping that you can get out after a couple of weeks or maybe one month.
Defendants should know that such a thing cannot happen in many aggravated DUI cases. Although it is possible to be paroled or to have your sentence cut short in an aggravated DUI case, that can only happen if you meet certain conditions.
Only those who were convicted of aggravated DUI due to having a person under fifteen years old in their vehicle and those who received that charge due to the presence of the ignition interlock device can be released from prison early.
If you’re aggravated DUI charge stems from the other causes, then you’re looking at a longer prison stay. You will spend at least four months in prison before you’re eligible for parole or a suspended sentence.
What Is the Difference between Aggravated DUI and Extreme DUI?
Arizona motorists may be confused by some of the terms used in DUI cases. For example, the courts can impose aggravated and extreme DUI charges on residents of the state. You may be wondering if they’re the same thing.
Aggravated and extreme DUI cases are not the same. We’ve already talked at length about aggravated DUI cases so let’s highlight what extreme DUI cases are.
Extreme DUI cases link to the blood alcohol level of the person who committed the crime. If your blood alcohol level is over 0.15 when the authorities pull you over, you can receive an extreme DUI.
Extreme DUI also counts as a class 1 misdemeanor, meaning it carries lighter penalties than an aggravated DUI charge.
Officials must handle an aggravated DUI charge seriously, and you can do that with a skilled and experienced lawyer by your side. Reach out to us at the Schill Law Group, and we will ensure that you receive justice in your aggravated DUI case.